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Thoughts On The New Gatorade Branding

The New Gatorade Logo

While walking the mean streets of New York, good or bad, I became hyper aware of the rebirth of the Gatorade brand. A text book exercise in rebranding was unfolding right before my eyes: New bottles, new print ads, new Gatorade coolers at the Red Bulls game, and new billboards. In short, a total eradication of the old Gatorade brand overnight (trust me, I looked for old ads and bottles at stores).

Like the recent Pepsi identity overhaul and Tropicana unbranding, the Gatorade work was completed by Sterling Brands TBWA\Chiat\Day. I’ll be the first one to admit the Gatorade work is nice. It’s clean, modern and classy (just like the attempts with Tropicana and Pepsi brand overhauls). But I have to ask, is it really necessary? Consumers love the 20 year old look of a similarly aligned and dominate beverage brand, Tropicana. When the Tropicana look changed, consumers took to the internet in huge numbers to voice their displeasure with the new look. I recently read that with the new package design, sales of Tropicana dropped 20%. A huge kick in the privates of Pepsi Co., especially after spending countless dollars to relaunch this product only to have to change it back to the old package design.

So, in thinking about the value of a brand, once a product reaches the awareness of Gatorade (or Pepsi, Coke, McDonalds, Tropicana and so on), I’m not sure if it’s possible to significantly alter the the visual identity of said product without experiencing backlash or, even worse, losing customers. I feel that a brand the calibre of Gatorade can only evolve. A total change, like the new identity (except for the tiny lightning bolt), leaves too much potential to confuse and alienate existing customers, even if the new brand design is fresh, contemporary and clean.

Consumers thought the new Tropicana box was a store no name brand, which, recession or no recession, is probably the main reason sales slipped 20% for Tropicana after the new packaging was launched. And with a very similar design, I feel like the market revolt that Tropicana experienced is a possibility with Gatorade.

If anything, the new Gatorade work feels like a step back to me from the old identity in terms of visual impact and memorability. The old design, which was probably around for 20 odd years still had legs and incorporated well with real life, print ads, and on TV. When you think of a sports drink, Gatorade is the drink of choice most people think of to replenish themselves after after an intense sporting activity. How much more does Gatorade really need to reinforce this point? As long as the product is available at retail outlets and Gatorade aligns themselves with the right athletes and teams, the drink will continue to sell itself as it’s done for the past 40 odd years. Messing with Coke was an epic disaster. Messing with Tropicana bombed. Messing with Gatorade has the potential to nose dive as well, especially when the existing identity portfolio was strong and adaptable with changing public tastes.

Oh, and those slogans/ideas/catch phrases… Even with a clean, modern font their readability is next to nothing. I find myself re-reading each slogan multiple times just to make sure I got the message right. But, then again, maybe that was the intent?

Be Tough

BE
TOU
GH

BR
ING
IT

FO
CUS

NO
EXC
USES

SH
INE
ON

(I keep wanting to read sunshine for this slogan)

I’m a big fan of strong, bold text. I get what the designers were trying to do accomplish the lightning bolt, the line on the right and slogan together incorporating many classic elements and principles of design. However, I feel like the new concepts don’t add a thing to the Gatorade brand, in fact they come very close to creating a non brand (I keep thinking of grocery store brands every time I see a new Gatorade ad or bottle). The lightning bolt fades into the background as I spend the majority of my brain power trying to decipher the slogans to the left of the logo.

Why not keep the lightning bolt big and add these slogans in smaller text underneath? Being subtle is great, but I just kept getting confused as I tried to decipher the lines of text. I’m not going to go and drink Gatorade to “Be Strong.” I’ll drink it because it tastes good and I guess it helps me to manage my electrolytes after a run or sports session. I usually turn to water, but sometimes a Gatorade will hit the spot and give me a boost. Side note: Every time I hear the word electrolyte now, I keep thinking of the movie, Idiocracy.

After quietly absorbing the recent Pepsi and Tropicana identity flips, I had to break my silence on the Gatorade brand overhaul. At practically every street corner and convenience store I visited in NYC there was a poster or billboard enticing me to fulfill my re-energising fantasies with a bottle of Gatorade.

I’m sure Pepsi has spent millions designing and repackaging the identity of its core products. For a company the size of Pepsi Co. does an entire brand overhaul really help fuel sales of products like Gatorade? Or, is the money being spent just for the sake of spending money? Time, and the sales numbers, will tell.

I’d love to hear some of the insights from Sterling Brands TBWA\Chiat\Day. I’m sure the final product is one of tens of paths that the new identity for Gatorade could have taken. Maybe the new look isn’t even the strongest idea that was presented to Pepsi. At the end of the day, the executives who gave the thumbs up to the current rebranding blitz at Pepsi Co. are the ones who have their necks on the line. If the sales tank and another Tropicana Unbranding is pulled, I’m sure there will be a fair number of executives looking for new jobs.

Gatorade currently holds an 82% share of the sports drink market this is apparently down from their 93% market share in the 90s. Considering how diluted the sports and energy drink market has become, an 82% share is quite incredible.

2 Responses to Thoughts On The New Gatorade Branding

  1. G says:

    Just an FYI… Gatorade branding and packaging was done by TBWA\CHIAT\DAY in Los Angeles, not Sterling Brands.

  2. Cie says:

    I’m so glad to see that others agree that its a horird new look. I’m usually all for modern design and for over a decade had a business devoted to it (not in the packaging area though )Long before I found out that there was a surrounding controversy, I told my girlfriend who was shopping with me, how bad the new design was, and pointed out why. I usually don’t speak out or pay much attention to this sort of thing, so you know that I had a strong opinion about this one. I’m glad to hear that they’re going to change it back. Keeping it would HAVE to be a mistake!On a related note, I actually like the new Pepsi packaging. Its simple for one thing, and unlike a sliced orange, I don’t think a picture of a cola nut makes the average person’s mouth water, so here the abstraction is appropriate. A picture is worth a thousand words as they used to say in my Psychology in Advertising class, and the original carton design accomplished this much more efficiently! I had to study this new carton design for quite some time before I understood what I was looking at and even a good bit longer before I could determine my usual selection of the low acid variety. A well-printed (four-color process) freshly cut orange slice gives you an immediate idea as to what’s inside, and its a hundred times more appetizing than that abstracted juice glass that looks like it was printed at home on someone’s basement press with cheap ink.The half-an-orange screw top is a cute, eye-catching idea though, and therefore a good one (if its not hard to open). I hope they can keep it!

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